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Newbie question about terrain ratings


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Hello-Are terrain ratings based on the terrain directly around a cache- or it is including the terrain to get to a cache? For example, if a cache is on a nice flat terrain- but parts of the trail to get to that nice flat terrain are uphill climbs and the only way to get to the cache on via that trail- how is that terrain to be rated?

 

Thanks!

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13 minutes ago, niraD said:

In the Help Center article Ratings for difficulty and terrain (D/T), terrain ratings are described as "Physical effort needed to arrive at coordinates."

 

Generally, start at the most reasonable trailhead, and rate the physical effort required to get from there to the cache coordinates.

You don't need to just get to the cache coordinates, you need to get to the cache.  The terrain rating should be based on the most difficult part of the trek.

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41 minutes ago, niraD said:

In the Help Center article Ratings for difficulty and terrain (D/T), terrain ratings are described as "Physical effort needed to arrive at coordinates."

 

Generally, start at the most reasonable trailhead, and rate the physical effort required to get from there to the cache coordinates.

Thank-you- I read the info at the link with the stars-that helps- I am finding some caches I would have rated higher- but based on that system- i guess they are ok- and of course you can't account for everything when trying to rate- Thanks again!

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15 hours ago, TheFender5 said:

Thank-you- I read the info at the link with the stars-that helps- I am finding some caches I would have rated higher- but based on that system- i guess they are ok- and of course you can't account for everything when trying to rate- Thanks again!

 

It's a subjective system so a 3 stars for you is different from somebody else. Also, each season have different hazards so its hard to get an accurate T at all times. Finally, the older caches normally have a lower T because people expected to do more work to get to the cache. 

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6 hours ago, Lynx Humble said:

It's a subjective system

 

The D/T chart rating listed in the GC help Center and referred to on the submission form doesn’t seem subjective. Well, perhaps mildly subjective with some wiggle room between 1/2 stars. 

Edited by L0ne.R
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17 minutes ago, L0ne.R said:

 

The D/T chart rating listed in the GC help Center and referred to on the submission form doesn’t seem subjective. Well, perhaps mildly subjective with some wiggle room between 1/2 stars. 

Agreed. While there's some mild subjectivity, the guidance should mean that similar terrains will be rated fairly similarly (within reason) around the world. This is good for travellers, because they'll have a better idea of what to expect. However, if everyone does their own thing, then the ratings become meaningless for non-locals. For example, it was recently mentioned that some Germans misuse the terrain rating as an extension to the difficulty rating. That is, if they think their really difficult puzzle should be given a difficulty rating higher than 5, then they artificially inflate the terrain rating. Of course, this makes the terrain rating useless, so this is not recommended.

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The ones that irk me a bit are special equipment required caches, usually a cache on an island that needs a boat, that are rated T4.5 instead of T5. I'm not sure whether the COs think their caches are too easy to be called T5 so they drop them half a star, but you end up with T4.5 being both toughest of the tough land caches and easiest of the easy water caches. Five of my ten T4.5 finds are in the latter category - two of them island events a short paddle from land - good for filling the D/T grid I suppose but it still doesn't feel right.

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1 hour ago, barefootjeff said:

The ones that irk me a bit are special equipment required caches, usually a cache on an island that needs a boat, that are rated T4.5 instead of T5. I'm not sure whether the COs think their caches are too easy to be called T5 so they drop them half a star, but you end up with T4.5 being both toughest of the tough land caches and easiest of the easy water caches. Five of my ten T4.5 finds are in the latter category - two of them island events a short paddle from land - good for filling the D/T grid I suppose but it still doesn't feel right.

Yep. I've seen listings with both variations of a T4.5 rating. Sometimes it's "T5 light" and sometimes it's "extreme T4".

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6 hours ago, niraD said:
7 hours ago, barefootjeff said:

The ones that irk me a bit are special equipment required caches, usually a cache on an island that needs a boat, that are rated T4.5 instead of T5. I'm not sure whether the COs think their caches are too easy to be called T5 so they drop them half a star, but you end up with T4.5 being both toughest of the tough land caches and easiest of the easy water caches. Five of my ten T4.5 finds are in the latter category - two of them island events a short paddle from land - good for filling the D/T grid I suppose but it still doesn't feel right.

Yep. I've seen listings with both variations of a T4.5 rating. Sometimes it's "T5 light" and sometimes it's "extreme T4".

 

This one  - https://www.geocaching.com/geocache/GC6PB6X_the-belly-dancer-havacache-series and https://www.geocaching.com/geocache/GC6PB7N_jamison-havacache-series - both a 4T rating but neither was particularly difficult to find.  Seems they combined the T and the D ratings - the only access was by boat, or jetski, or kayak. Shouldn't these be terrain 5 as the description states you need a watercraft to access?  They were on the Colorado River, campgrounds and such on the AZ side, but the caches were on the CA side where there was no access except by boat from the river.  A fun find, with a pontoon boat full of geocachers and muggles (a family campout and a rented boat!)  It would be nice to get the 5T rating though.  Once we got to the site, one find was about 1 or 1.5, the other a bit more but still not a 3 OR 4, maybe a 2?

 

How do you get corrections made?  NOt that I'm about numbers or filling a grid, but Jamison is more accurately a 5/2 or so, and Belly Dancer is a 5/1 or 1.5.

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7 hours ago, niraD said:

Yep. I've seen listings with both variations of a T4.5 rating. Sometimes it's "T5 light" and sometimes it's "extreme T4".

 

If you want some REALLY light high terrain caches come to my area. We have one park and grab, and one very easy terrain cache rated T 3.5 and T 4.5 "to help people fill their grid."

 Pfffft! 

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A couple of random responses:

"how do you get corrections made?" - you explain the issue to the cache owner. They either edit, or they don't. Most don't,  though I have seen it.  There was a cache T 1 D 5 where just about every finder mentioned that the ratings were flipped, tough paddle, easy find.    ( 10 years after hiding, the CO logged on and edited the ratings and got the size right )

 

"from the most logical parking" -  can be an issue. I've found caches where the CO had been to an area once, dropped a cache, rated it for the way they got there. Which was not how someone more familiar would do it.  Conversely, I had a cache where the most logical approach was a short, pleasant, flat water river paddle or you could do a long off trail swamp-whack. I rated it T5 for the boat. It was found far far more often by hikers, who hiked, ran the gators off the bank, and waded for it.  I never did it that way myself, but in retrospect, it probably was a T 4.

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2 hours ago, Isonzo Karst said:

"from the most logical parking" -  can be an issue. I've found caches where the CO had been to an area once, dropped a cache, rated it for the way they got there. Which was not how someone more familiar would do it. 

Mea culpa on this one, though it was actually an area I know well. I always go geocaching on a bicycle, in fact I get around on a bicycle most of the time. I placed a cache which I considered very easy terrain because although it's out in the country, it's pretty much right by the side of the road, I even called it a cache 'n' dash. Then the people who go round in cars, started commenting that there was no parking and they couldn't stop because it's a narrow road and they were holding up other traffic. So I worked out where the nearest halfway decent parking is, and it's gone from a simple roadside cache 'n' dash to a 2.5km hike and from T1.5 to T2.5.

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7 hours ago, Max and 99 said:
15 hours ago, niraD said:

Yep. I've seen listings with both variations of a T4.5 rating. Sometimes it's "T5 light" and sometimes it's "extreme T4".

 

If you want some REALLY light high terrain caches come to my area. We have one park and grab, and one very easy terrain cache rated T 3.5 and T 4.5 "to help people fill their grid."

Yeah, that's different from what I meant by "T5 light". What I meant was when someone sees that the terrain requires equipment, but thinks the equipment is common enough that it isn't really "special equipment". So it isn't worth a full T5 rating, and they rate it T4.5 instead.

 

There's no attempt "to help people fill their grid" or any of that silliness.

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2 hours ago, Lynx Humble said:

the reviewer in my area don't seem to enforce it.

The reviewers generally don't enforce difficulty or terrain ratings. The exception appears to be assuring that T1 caches have the Wheelchair accessible attribute, and vice versa. 

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On 6/11/2018 at 7:08 AM, niraD said:

"Physical effort needed to arrive at coordinates."

Because of that, I have seen a tree climb listed as 1.5 stars. Admittedly a very small tree climb; there was only the need to pull yourself up to the first tree fork and then reach high to get the cache (if you are tall enough). I made a comment the cache was underrated, because the feet don't stay on the ground. The CO replied the rating was correct, because the walk there was flat and easy to reach GZ. The climb didn't count to the CO, because of that quote above.

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17 minutes ago, Goldenwattle said:

Because of that, I have seen a tree climb listed as 1.5 stars. Admittedly a very small tree climb; there was only the need to pull yourself up to the first tree fork and then reach high to get the cache (if you are tall enough). I made a comment the cache was underrated, because the feet don't stay on the ground. The CO replied the rating was correct, because the walk there was flat and easy to reach GZ. The climb didn't count to the CO, because of that quote above.

 

I agree the wording in the Help Center is confusing.  I think "Physical effort required to arrive at coordinates AND access the cache" would be better.   

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Just now, redsox_mark said:

 

I agree the wording in the Help Center is confusing.  I think "Physical effort required to arrive at coordinates AND access the cache" would be better.   

 

Agreed.  The coordinates do not take into account the vertical component required to actually put ones hands on the container.  I recall a cache in Minneapolis that was on some metal stairs.  Getting to the coordinates of the cache was relatively easy as far as the terrain goes (no more than a 1.5).  Getting to the right level (I think the hint included the number of steps from the bottom of the stairs), though not physically difficult, made the difference between a find or not.  For a cache that *does* require climbing well up into a tree I often see the Difficulty rating inflated, even when one could see he container from the ground, more than an incorrect T rating.  

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13 minutes ago, Goldenwattle said:

Because of that, I have seen a tree climb listed as 1.5 stars. Admittedly a very small tree climb; there was only the need to pull yourself up to the first tree fork and then reach high to get the cache (if you are tall enough). I made a comment the cache was underrated, because the feet don't stay on the ground. The CO replied the rating was correct, because the walk there was flat and easy to reach GZ. The climb didn't count to the CO, because of that quote above.

 

Wow. Some people don't like being told and will take every opportunity to find loopholes, nitpick, and go against the grain instead of working with the intent of the guidelines.  It seems we need a 1000-page playbook for some people.  "Physical effort needed to arrive at coordinates." 'It doesn't say vertical physical effort, therefore, a tree climb at ground zero doesn't count.'

 'Tree climb isn't specifically mentioned in the terrain chart so it doesn't count.' 'Average height of the average person isn't specifically mentioned therefore it's the height of the owner that counts.' 

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1 hour ago, Goldenwattle said:

Because of that, I have seen a tree climb listed as 1.5 stars. Admittedly a very small tree climb; there was only the need to pull yourself up to the first tree fork and then reach high to get the cache (if you are tall enough). I made a comment the cache was underrated, because the feet don't stay on the ground. The CO replied the rating was correct, because the walk there was flat and easy to reach GZ. The climb didn't count to the CO, because of that quote above.

Yeah, the rating guidelines used to refer to climbs that required "hands and feet", or something like that. Tree climbs generally used that rating or higher.

 

And FWIW, I have seen elevated caches where the CO expected you to climb the tree, and raised the terrain rating accordingly. And I have seen elevated caches where the CO expected you to use a tool, and raised the difficulty rating accordingly.

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1 hour ago, blindleader said:

Not surprisingly, given the date, I don't see any mention of the extensive discussion of rating values that took place in the early years of geocaching. The current guidelines are ultimately based on the results of that discussion as recorded by ClayJar.  ClayJar's rating system is a handy tool that, in some respects, is more detailed than the guidelines linked above.

 

We used to use clayjar too.

Maybe the site considered that mentioning clayjar as well would only confuse new members (appearance of two rating systems).

They already say, "Ratings vary from one community to the next. A 3-star terrain in Banff, Canada, is a different experience than a 3-star terrain in Amsterdam, Holland" in the opener, so that probably covers any slight differences.   :)

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21 hours ago, cerberus1 said:

 (appearance of two rating systems).

They are actually the same system, but the ClayJar calculator is more detailed. For example, where the geocaching.com guide uses vague terms such as " extended hike", leaving the cacher to guess at whether his x mile hike is "extended" or "significant distance", ClayJar gives numerical ranges and uses a variety of important characteristics missing from the geocaching.com guide.

 

If the dumbed down geocaching.com system is what most people use for rating their caches, then it's no wonder ratings vary from one community to the next. Both terrain systems are geared toward hikes, and for that I'm convinced the ClayJar calculator would give more consistent results. For other types of terrain (developed parks, cityscapes, etc), each local caching group is on their own to decide such things as how to rate a cache that requires standing on the back of a bench and bracing ones self against a post while stretching to reach a container in the rafters of a picnic shelter vs. climbing ten feet up a mature cedar tree.

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7 minutes ago, blindleader said:

They are actually the same system, but the ClayJar calculator is more detailed. For example, where the geocaching.com guide uses vague terms such as " extended hike", leaving the cacher to guess at whether his x mile hike is "extended" or "significant distance", ClayJar gives numerical ranges and uses a variety of important characteristics missing from the geocaching.com guide.

 

I'm not sure if we're looking at the same page, but the geocaching.com list does give specific distance ranges, like less than 0.8km for T1.5, less than 3km for T2 and more than 3km for T3. For the sort of caches I hide, I find it easier to use than the ClayJar one which seemed to place too much emphasis on what sort of bicycle you might or mightn't be able to ride to the cache. I was never sure how to apply that on a track that had steps which you couldn't ride any sort of bike up but would still be an easy walk.

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19 minutes ago, barefootjeff said:

 

I'm not sure if we're looking at the same page

6.11. Ratings for difficulty and terrain (D/T)

Look at the descriptions for 3.5, 4, 4.5. The ClayJar page has four different distance ranges to choose from. In addition there are three more variables for trail surface, vegetation and elevation changes. As an example I used it to calculate a rating for GCWTXZ Lookout Lookout. of 2/3.75. ClayJar gave it 1.5/4. fourteen years ago. Since the nominal round trip distance of 9 miles (14.5km) was very close to the upper limit of the range, and with elevation gain of 4,500' (1370m), it was easy to round up to terrain 4. Search difficulty was slightly higher than the CO listed, which does not surprise me as the vegetation around the cache has changed drastically in the ten years between the original hide and my find in 2015.

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5 minutes ago, blindleader said:

6.11. Ratings for difficulty and terrain (D/T)

Look at the descriptions for 3.5, 4, 4.5. The ClayJar page has four different distance ranges to choose from. In addition there are three more variables for trail surface, vegetation and elevation changes. As an example I used it to calculate a rating for GCWTXZ Lookout Lookout. of 2/3.75. ClayJar gave it 1.5/4. fourteen years ago. Since the nominal round trip distance of 9 miles (14.5km) was very close to the upper limit of the range, and with elevation gain of 4,500' (1370m), it was easy to round up to terrain 4. Search difficulty was slightly higher than the CO listed, which does not surprise me as the vegetation around the cache has changed drastically in the ten years between the original hide and my find in 2015.

 

Once you get into the higher T ratings, there are a lot more factors that come into play than just distance or even raw elevation change. Climbing 100 metres up a flight of steps is a lot different to working your way up the side of a cliff, or gaining that altitude over the course of a 3km hike. Sometimes vagueness is helpful if your terrain doesn't match any of the specific options.

 

As for difficulty, ClayJar only uses the very last question to assess that and implies that all multi-stage caches must be at least D3, which is problematic for distinguishing between easy multis and those that are only moderately difficult.

 

No tool is ever going to cover every situation, so best to just use them as a starting guide and tweak as necessary, taking in the particulars of your specific terrain and trickiness. Comparing your hide to the ratings of others in your region can be helpful. On occasions I've gone through a list of similar caches I've done and marked them as either easier or tougher than mine, to get a sense of where mine sits in the range of ratings. I doubt if anyone's likely to complain if you're half a star off anyway.

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13 minutes ago, barefootjeff said:

what sort of bicycle you might or mightn't be able to ride to the cache.

 

I liked that part of the clayjar ratings. It is relatable. Most people can relate to pushing a bike up a hill or riding through undergrowth. 

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2 minutes ago, barefootjeff said:

best to just use them as a starting guide and tweak as necessary,

 

Tweak is the operative word. I think that both d/t rating charts work well. But most people ignore them and judge a terrain rating by their own physical strength, not the average strength. Or height by their own height, not by the average female cachers' height. Yes, females of average height, weight, and health also geocache and many geocache alone, so they rely on accurate ratings. 

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13 minutes ago, L0ne.R said:

 

I liked that part of the clayjar ratings. It is relatable. Most people can relate to pushing a bike up a hill or riding through undergrowth. 

 

How would you rate something like this?

 

Steps.jpg.db1c95123b7a578c7451bafe13e474c6.jpg

 

You wouldn't be able to ride a bike up those and even pushing it would be tiresome if there were lots of steps like this along the track, but it's not what I'd consider steep or severe.

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5 minutes ago, barefootjeff said:

 

How would you rate something like this?

 

If that's all there was, maybe 2. If there was a mile or more of that with a commensurate elevation gain, maybe 2.5 to 3. Hiking, not biking.

 

For comparison, that looks about as hard as the average on the upper 1,500' of Lookout Lookout, which accounts for 1 full point of the 4 on that cache.

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15 minutes ago, barefootjeff said:

 

How would you rate something like this?

 

Steps.jpg.db1c95123b7a578c7451bafe13e474c6.jpg

 

You wouldn't be able to ride a bike up those and even pushing it would be tiresome if there were lots of steps like this along the track, but it's not what I'd consider steep or severe.

1

 

Using clayjar it's a 3. 

Not suitable for small children. (The average adult or older child should be OK depending on physical condition. Terrain is likely off-trail. May have one or more of the following: some overgrowth, some steep elevation changes, or more than a 2 mile hike.)

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53 minutes ago, L0ne.R said:
1 hour ago, barefootjeff said:

 

How would you rate something like this?

 

Steps.jpg.db1c95123b7a578c7451bafe13e474c6.jpg

 

You wouldn't be able to ride a bike up those and even pushing it would be tiresome if there were lots of steps like this along the track, but it's not what I'd consider steep or severe.

1

 

Using clayjar it's a 3. 

Not suitable for small children. (The average adult or older child should be OK depending on physical condition. Terrain is likely off-trail. May have one or more of the following: some overgrowth, some steep elevation changes, or more than a 2 mile hike.)

 

If the hike was under a kilometre with some steps like these, I'd consider it a 2.5 tops, but I still have trouble relating it to riding a bike. To my mind that isn't steep, it's just steps I could comfortably walk up and I'm 63 years old - the younger ones in our community could run up and down it all day.

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There's one I did recently, GCXZFP, which was a 5km hike along a fairly level mountain-bike-friendly fire trail (in fact two of our group did ride their bikes) with this climb up to the cave at the end. That one's rated T3 which I think is about right for the distance and that bit of a scramble.

 

181dd44b-d852-4079-9b0e-3309c33aac23.jpg.4a2a70cf3b485dc958c54445e7a25db6.jpg

Edited by barefootjeff
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1 hour ago, L0ne.R said:

 

Tweak is the operative word. I think that both d/t rating charts work well. But most people ignore them and judge a terrain rating by their own physical strength, not the average strength. Or height by their own height, not by the average female cachers' height. Yes, females of average height, weight, and health also geocache and many geocache alone, so they rely on accurate ratings. 

 

And you know this how?  If most people ignore them, then the majority of the ratings worldwide are wrong.  I rarely find T ratings off by more than a 1/2 star.  I think I can count on both hands the number of times I felt a T rating was rated too high or too low (+/- 1 full star).  I'm usually fine with a 1/2 star difference of opinion and am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, either way. 

 

The D rating, however, easily surpasses all the digits on my hands and toes a few times over.  That's the one I usually have the most issue with when determining how many stars my hides need.

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24 minutes ago, barefootjeff said:

There's one I did recently, GCXZFP, which was a 5km hike along a fairly level mountain-bike-friendly fire trail (in fact two of our group did ride their bikes) with this climb up to the cave at the end. That one's rated T3 which I think is about right for the distance and that bit of a scramble.

 

181dd44b-d852-4079-9b0e-3309c33aac23.jpg.4a2a70cf3b485dc958c54445e7a25db6.jpg

Still no shoes!! LOL. One of these days you will accidentally post a photo of you wearing shoes, and I'll fall off my chair in shock.

All kidding aside, that looks like a cool place for a geocache!

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